To people from the outside looking in at a Paris Saint-Germain team, they are bedazzled by the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva. But the likes of Blaise Matuidi, Maxwell and Gregory Van der Wiel to an extent this season are not usually given the acclaim they deserve. One man who fits in that category by a mile is Thiago Motta. I clocked something on Twitter where an English commentator apparently said, “What does Thiago Motta bring to the team?”. In the words of Don Revie; ‘that really shook me’. It is an ignorant conclusion to make at a drop of a hat and proof that Thiago Motta is severely overlooked by many. In my honest opinion, he has been PSG’s player of the season.
Of course, Ibrahimovic and Cavani’s goals have got us to where we are. But, I really do not think things would have been as plain sailing without Motta sitting just in front of the back four. He was plagued by injury last season and had very little playing time. That resulted in a midfield trio being chopped and changed. Even Momo Sissoko had a couple of games as the anchor-man (remember him?). Little Marco Verratti was having his first season in a top flight division and Blaise Matuidi was establishing himself under Carlo Ancelotti. Now, under Laurent Blanc we have a settled midfield. Blaise on the left, Marco on the right and in the middle of the two, the Brazilian born Azzurri wearing Motta. It’s as good a midfield in Europe at the moment!
Thankfully, TM has put his injury woes behind him that had tormented his time in Paris since he signed from Internazionale in January 2012. He along with Maxwell were bought during that period by Ancelotti who knew what these two exemplary professionals could bring so much knowhow to a growing team. Look at the pair of them today. They are stalwarts for Les Parisiens. Without question the two most underrated performers. I remember writing a piece last year on Maxwell being a key cog in the Parisien set-up and Motta certainly fits that bracket – even more so.
Is it any surprise he is often overlooked from the watching public? Not really. Players in his position are missed greatly when they have a spell out the team. Then there is a realisation that there lack of presence is a hindrance on the dynamic of a side. Motta sums that up. On the wrong side of 30, he is one of the elder statesmen of the team. He aids Matuidi but more so young Verratti. His Azzurri teammate is nurturing into something quite special and a large reason for that is having TM by his side. Verratti is far from the finished article, his petulance is a little nagging but that will be eradicated in time. But, in terms of intelligence on the ball, the eye for a pass and his reading of the game, it is flawless at times. Motta share that ilk, but he has played in teams that have ‘stars’ that grab the headlines. It is apparent in Paris and it was certainly the same in Italy with Inter as he was a key player in them becoming the first Italian team to win the treble. It was Wesley Sneijder, Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito that drew the plaudits.
The skipper Thiago Silva paid a glowing appraisal to Motta & Verratti after the 4-0 win over Lyon in the fall by saying; “They are the heart of our team. If both of them do not play, the team does not play the same way”. Motta was taken off at half-time and Verratti soon after when PSG were 2-0 up. Nevertheless, the team did not look the same when both were off the pitch – especially TM’s lack of aura.
Laurent Blanc played an ace card by putting Motta on set-pieces when he took over. This was evident at the beginning of the campaign in the Trophee de Champions final against Bordeaux and it worked a treat. I never realised just how good he was from set-pieces up until that point. He plays them on sixpence at times. He only got two assists before this season in a Parisien shirt and yet he has doubled that tally thus far. The 31-year-old has even netted three goals, something of a rarity but a pleasure to see.
He has already more than doubled his appearance tally from last season and is still going strong. For the sake of the team, it is imperative he stays fit – especially in Europe. Severely underrated, yet so important. If PSG are to go on and retain the league and go afar in the Champions League, it will not have just been down to the attack but Motta’s assurance in the middle of that superb midfield trio.
He has a case as much as anyone at being PSG’s most important player. He may not win any personal awards at the end of the campaign but many affiliated with the club may just have him in mind as their player of the season.